Jalen Mills was thinking back, trying to remember the last time the Eagles had their full secondary together.
It had to be Jacksonville last year, right? Before I got hurt?” he said. “No wait. Rodney (McLeod) got hurt Week 3. Has to be the Colts game, right? That’s when Rod got hurt. He got hurt Week 3, I got hurt Week 8, (Ronald) Darby got hurt Week 9. We haven’t all played together since the Colts game.
It’s been more than 13 months since the Eagles had a healthy secondary.
They’ve played 23 consecutive games with one of their starters missing.
At least one of their starters.
On Sunday, when the Eagles face the Bears at the Linc, the band will finally be back together.
I just think it’s always good to have your best guys out there,” Malcolm Jenkins said. “And those guys, they’ve battled for us, they give us a lot of flexibility on defense, so it’s good to have those guys back out there. It’s been a while since we had the real full group out there. So I think it’s exciting because at this point in the season we need it.
Since McLeod’s knee injury against the Colts started this unbelievable avalanche of secondary injuries, the Eagles have used 18 different starting lineups and 16 different starting defensive backs.
In 23 games.
They haven’t used the same starting secondary more than two games in a row during that span.
But with Mills and Darby at corner, McLeod and Jenkins at safety and Avonte Maddox expected to be avalable to play in the slot, the Eagles are finally at full strength.
It is a good feeling,” McLeod said. “It’s been a long time coming since we’ve all been out there. We shared a lot of moments together, been in a lot of battles with one another and the bond and the familiarity is there. It’s good to have all of us back healthy first and foremost to be able to help out this defense and help out this team. It’s crazy that it’s been a year and a half since we all touched the field together. It’s such a good feeling.
Mills made his 2019 debut in Dallas, Darby returned from a four-game layoff Sunday in Buffalo and this Sunday at the Linc Maddox should be back for the Bears after missing four games.
Cre’Von LeBlanc, the slot in the postseason last year, is the only remaining injured defensive back. He’s been out since suffering a foot injury early in training camp and won’t be back any time soon.
It was the quartet of McLeod, Jenkins, Darby and Mills — along with slot Patrick Robinson — that was in place during the Super Bowl run two years ago.
We’ve got that chemistry,” Mills said. “We’ve played on the big stage together. Then you add Avonte, who’s so versatile, can play corner, nickel or safety, and it’s definitely a comfort level having us all together. It makes a difference.
Of that group, only Jenkins has started more than 13 games over the last two years. Only Jenkins and Rasul Douglas haven’t missed multiple games with injuries.
The rash of defensive back injuries over the last two years has been unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.
McLeod, Mills, Darby, Maddox and Sidney Jones have missed a combined 62 games over the last two years.
It’s left the Eagles with guys like De’Vante Bausby, Chandon Sullivan, Jonathan Cyprien, Dexter McDougle, Tre Sullivan, Josh Hawkins and of course Orlando Scandrick playing meaningful reps.
Now they’re all back. No more excuses. They need to play like the big-time secondary we saw two years ago.
Here’s a look at the 18 different starting secondaries the Eagles have used since last year began:
3 Maddox / Douglas / LeBlanc / Jenkins / Graham
2 Darby / Mills / Jenkins / McLeod
2 Darby / Mills / Jenkins / Maddox
2 Jones / Douglas / LeBlanc / Jenkins / Graham
2 Maddox / Douglas / Jenkins / Graham
2 Darby / Jones / Maddox / Jenkins / McLeod
2 Douglas / Jones / Sendejo / Jenkins / McLeod
1 Darby / Mills / Graham / Jenkins / McLeod
1 Darby / Mills / Jenkins / Graham
1 Darby / Mills / Jones / Jenkins / Maddox
1 Darby / Mills / McDougle / Jenkins / Maddox
1 Darby / Douglas / Maddox / Jenkins / T. Sullivan
1 Jones / Douglas / Maddox / Jenkins / Graham
1 C. Sullivan / Bausby / Jenkins / Graham
1 Darby / Douglas / Maddox / Jenkins / McLeod
1 Douglas / James / Jenkins / McLeod
1 Douglas / Mills / Scandrick / Jenkins / McLeod
1 Darby / Mills / Jenkins / McLeod
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